Campaign Kick-Off Speech

As delivered on Thursday, March 10, 2011 in Conversation Hall at Philadelphia's City Hall:


Thank you for being here to support me today as I launch my re-election campaign for Council At-Large.
I want to thank President Verna and my Council colleagues for being here today.
Without their support, none of the accomplishments I will talk about today would have been possible.
I ran for office four years ago and I am running now for one reason: I love this City.
I grew up in a Philadelphia family where service – and politics and government as a means to serving people – is a way of life.
My campaign theme in 2007 and still today – “Beholden to none – accountable to all” – reflects my commitment to be the strong, independent voice Philadelphians deserve.
This election represents an important opportunity to set a new direction for the City.
Philadelphia voters are given five votes for City Council At Large. I’d like to tell you why I think th should cast one for me.
I have been a budget hawk from day one and believe I have earned the respect of my colleagues on fiscal matters – even if they may not agree with me on every issue.
In my first term, I fought and helped defeat proposed 19% and 14% property tax increases, a regressive $300 residential trash fee, and the sugar-sweetened beverage tax.
And I voted against the 9.9% real estate tax increase that did pass.
Tax increases are not the only option – nor should they be the first option – to address a budget deficit.
In my first year, I joined with my freshman colleagues to present over $50 million in savings.
Last spring, we as a body identified $100 million more in spending cuts – many of which were ultimately adopted by the Mayor.
As Council’s representative on the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, I have worked to reduce the City’s prison population by over 2,000 inmates and implemented major reforms – saving the city over $25 million per year.
We can save an additional $200 million by replacing multi-step, paper-based processes with streamlined, online processes - just like private industry;
by working with the municipal unions to offer these improved services;
and by using program-based budgeting to ensure that public investment yields positive, meaningful results.
I said I would work to create jobs and I believe we’re headed in the right direction.
When it comes to the economy, it’s clear that we need new solutions to old problems.
To grow this City and provide jobs for our residents, we need to eliminate the job-killing net income tax.
Time and again, I have heard from businesses big and small that the net income tax is the one tax that keeps them from growing or locating their businesses in the city in first place.
I pledge to work with my colleagues to find a way to eliminate this tax within the next five years.
I told voters I would work to address quality of life issues and, again, I believe I have delivered.
I successfully sued the City to prevent the closure of eleven libraries – and today libraries are open in Eastwick, Mantua, Mt. Airy, Ogontz, Point Breeze, Fishtown, Haddington, Holmesburg, Kingsessing and South Philadelphia.
I passed legislation enhancing public safety by cracking down on driving while texting or talking on cell phones without headsets;
enhanced public health by clamping down on overflowing dumpsters on our streets and sidewalks;
and protected public space by allowing historic preservation of our most honored and cherished interior spaces like Council chambers and the Great Hall at Wannamaker’s.
I have co-sponsored legislation with my colleagues to protect victims of domestic violence and strengthened protections against fraudulent deeds to combat house theft.
My fantastic constituent services staff has helped thousands of residents get dangerous buildings torn down, potholes filled, and benefits accessed.
But we have only just begun.
During the last three years, we’ve faced significant challenges and, by and large, we’ve met them.
But I am not satisfied with the pace and scope of change.
Why not?
Because the fate of our city turns on how real we are about the challenges confronting us.
And how bold we are in addressing them.
In the past thirty years, we’ve lost over 240,000 jobs and more than 140,000 residents.
We’ve lost 47,000 jobs in the last 10 years alone.
Our poverty rate has grown to 25%.
Our childhood poverty rate is 36%.
Our school drop-out rate is close to 50%.
Only one in five Philadelphians has a four-year college degree.
We are dead last in entrepreneurial activity of the Top 15 major cities in the country.
This is not sustainable.
The demographic trends we confront require much more than band-aids.
In the face of this, we’re lauding ourselves for things that are marginal and insignificant given the scope of the challenges before us.
We pat ourselves on the back for modest improvements in school test scores.
But the pace of change won’t get our students to grade level for 150 years.
We don’t have 150 years to turn this city around.
We hold press conferences to announce that jobs are coming.
But we need job growth – and jobs available to people in our neighborhoods – not the kind of job loss we’ve had over the past decade.
We declare as a victory the fact that we have no contracts with two of our municipal labor unions.
But no contracts means we’re missing a chance to work with our workforce to grapple with pension and health care costs, which will consume 35% of our city budget before long.
We’re standing at the crossroads.
One path is well-worn and easy.
It’s a continuation of our current path where all we do is make changes at the margins.
But for Philadelphia to survive and prosper, we must chart a new course.
And we must do so together.
From the many corners of the city, we can agree on a shared vision.
A city with its people fully employed, well-schooled, not over-taxed, and believing in and getting value from their government.
I will fight for what does work.
And I’ll end what doesn’t.
I won’t shy away from challenges.
I will join you in confronting them to make Philadelphia the great city it can be.
I’m asking my fellow Philadelphians for the opportunity to serve you for another four years – to fight for you as a councilmember who is truly beholden to none, accountable to all.
Thank you.

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"I ran for office four years ago and I am running today because I love this City... My campaign theme in 2007 and still today - 'beholden to none, accountable to all' - reflects my commitment to be a strong, independent voice for all Philadelphians." - Bill Green